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A Strong West Wind: A Memoir by Gail…
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A Strong West Wind: A Memoir

by Gail Caldwell

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Showing 5 of 5
Caldwell fans will have a no brainer and any writer wannabe will want to add this to their list. But for the rest of the readers, Caldwell writes as if she's sprawled in your living room or sharing one of your pockets on a cold day. I picked up the audio and the print. ( )
  hfineisen | Jun 19, 2015 |
Did not like this at all! ( )
  Rock2 | Mar 7, 2011 |
This book is beautifully written, but not really my cup of tea. I had a very hard time getting into and staying in this book. ( )
  abcarroll | Feb 4, 2011 |
Interesting sort of memoir, as Caldwell is just a few years older than I am, but lived in a vastly different part of the country. The images of life in Texas were interesting, though I did get a little impatient with her coming of age years. (It's only fair. Those coming of age are usually pretty impatient with their world, too.) Reading of her parents, the word that comes to mind is hardscrabble, but by the time Caldwell came into the picture, they were probably more middle class. She tells the story of her youth and young adulthood in the 60's and 70's interspersed with her parents story of their lives and her relationship with them (particularly her father.) There is rage and anger, but there is love.

And there's a love for the dry, dusty land of Texas, where Caldwell first cut her teeth. The prologue opening sentence snared me: "For a long time my want for Texas was so veiled in guilt and ambiguity that I couldn't claim it for the sadness it was. I missed the people and the land and the sky — my God I missed the sky — but most of all I missed the sense of placid mystery the place evoked, endemic there as heat is to thunder. You can be gone for years from Texas, I now believe, and still be felled by such memories." Another passage, when an older Caldwell returns to Texas from Boston (where she writes for the Globe) because of her father's death. It is her job to make sure his .22 Remington wasn't still loaded. Though it had been a long time since she'd held a rifle, she remembered just what to do and out behind her parents' house to empty the rounds safely. "I realized how I must look — a barefoot woman in the yard with a rifle in her arms — and I remembered where I was and thought, Oh hell, it's Texas, no one would even care."

There's a good review of this book on bookreporter.com. ( )
  bookczuk | Dec 7, 2010 |
I was drawn to the idea of a memoir written by a literary critic in which she examines the pull of her Texas childhood on the woman she grows into being, who acknowledges the importance of the books she's read in shaping her personality, and who has gone on to have an illustrious and celebrated career in a field that is wildly interesting to me. Unfortunately, unlike almost every other reviewer out there who raves over this memoir, I thought the book fell flat.

Divided into two parts: Texas and everything afterwards, this was a painfully slow, navel-gazing read. The writing was able but pretentious. It was emotionally flat. Caldwell is clearly an incredibly erudite woman but her meandering text was a strain. It was a strain to care. It was a strain to stay awake. It was a strain not to close the book for good one night and give into surrender. While she didn't fall into the dysfunctional childhood memoir, exactly, she seems to suggest that her father's exacting and strict influence on her life was somehow injurious. The young girl who overcame being stricken with polio as a baby, who powered through so much on sheer determination as a child, seemed to be lost as she grew up. And in her place was a depressed woman who had somehow lost her way. Riding along with her while she tried to find her sense of self again was not particularly pleasurable, despite the occasional flashes of beautiful imagery. I am essentially alone in my assessment of the book but I don't want another reading experience like this one any time soon. ( )
  whitreidtan | Sep 14, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812972562, Paperback)

In this exquisitely rendered memoir set on the high plains of Texas, Pulitzer Prize winner Gail Caldwell transforms into art what it is like to come of age in a particular time and place. A Strong West Wind begins in the 1950s in the wilds of the Texas Panhandle–a place of both boredom and beauty, its flat horizons broken only by oil derricks, grain elevators, and church steeples. Its story belongs to a girl who grew up surrounded by dust storms and cattle ranches and summer lightning, who took refuge from the vastness of the land and the ever-present wind by retreating into books. What she found there, from renegade women to men who lit out for the territory, turned out to offer a blueprint for her own future. Caldwell would grow up to become a writer, but first she would have to fall in love with a man who was every mother’s nightmare, live through the anguish and fire of the Vietnam years, and defy the father she adored, who had served as a master sergeant in the Second World War.

A Strong West Wind is a memoir of culture and history–of fathers and daughters, of two world wars and the passionate rebellions of the sixties. But it is also about the mythology of place and the evolution of a sensibility: about how literature can shape and even anticipate a life.

Caldwell possesses the extraordinary ability to illuminate the desires, stories, and lives of ordinary people. Written with humanity, urgency, and beautiful restraint, A Strong West Wind is a magical and unforgettable book, destined to become an American classic.


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:30 -0400)

In this memoir set on the high plains of Texas, Pulitzer Prize winner Caldwell transforms into art what it is like to come of age in a particular time and place. Beginning in the 1950s in the wilds of the Texas Panhandle, she grew up surrounded by dust storms and cattle ranches and summer lightning, and took refuge from the vastness of the land and the ever-present wind by retreating into books. What she found there, from renegade women to men who lit out for the territory, turned out to offer a blueprint for her own future. Caldwell would become a writer, but first she would fall in love with a man who was every mother's nightmare, live through the Vietnam years, and defy the father she adored. This memoir of culture and history--of fathers and daughters, of two world wars and the passionate rebellions of the sixties--is also about the mythology of place and the evolution of a sensibility: how literature can shape and even anticipate a life.--From publisher description.… (more)

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